Ex-partner of Adam Johnson's sister sent to prison for harassing victim of former Sunderland footballer

The ex-boyfriend of Adam Johnson's sister has been jailed for harassing the footballer's schoolgirl victim online.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 8th November 2016, 2:25 pm
Updated Friday, 18th November 2016, 11:21 am
Steven Knox outside Peterlee Magistrates' Court.
Steven Knox outside Peterlee Magistrates' Court.

Steven Knox, 30, of Bradford Avenue, Town End Farm, Sunderland, caused the teenager alarm or distress by posting photos of her on Facebook and urging others to share them after Johnson was convicted of sexual activity with the child.

Knox, who is unemployed, ignored a harassment warning by the police and continued to post about the girl, who as the victim of a sex crime was entitled to life-long anonymity.

Knox, who has a child with Johnson's sister Faye, appeared at Peterlee Magistrates' Court to admit the single harassment charge.

District Judge Kristina Harrison said it was a "very troubling case".

She said: "The bottom line seems to me that if people are allowed to get away with what he did in this particular case, it's pointless having the rule of law."

The judge said complainants could be put off coming forward if they were named afterwards.

"I did consider whether I could suspend the sentence but I have become absolutely convinced that the courts must make a stand against this kind of behaviour," she said.

Ms Johnson, who sat at the back of the court with her father, wept as her ex-partner was led away.

Durham Police had previously warned internet users that it was a crime to identify alleged sexual assault victims.

The ex-Sunderland winger's young victim, who was said to be besotted with him, has been named on social media numerous times.

Johnson's trial at Bradford Crown Court heard that he had kissed and sexually touched the girl in his Range Rover in a secluded spot.

Trial judge Jonathan Rose was satisfied the girl had suffered "severe psychological harm" and that Johnson had taken advantage of "a young teenager's adoration of a successful celebrity".

Johnson was jailed for six years.

The day after the former Sunderland star was convicted, Knox posted two photos of the girl on Facebook and wrote: "A don't care if get locked up stand by my beliefs does this look like a girl who scared leave house who that young didn't no what was happening who bragged and lied who Perseud and prolonged couldn't give a slightest care in world (sic)."

His Facebook profile was "public" and he had more than 3,000 Facebook friends, the court heard.

The victim took a screen shot and sent it to the police.

Jim Hope, prosecuting, said the next day Knox posted a pictures of "pound notes", with a photo of the victim partially obscured by a football, and the comment: "Guess who this is."

Durham Police issued him with a harassment warning on March 11, explaining the girl must not be identified and that she had been caused considerable stress and harassment.

But later that month a relative of the victim told her there were a further 12 images of her on Knox's Facebook page, with the message: "This is one attention-seeking girl. Away man, she loves it.

"It's absolute joke. Like and share. Her family will be embarrassed. Like and share."

A photo of the girl was posted too, and although it was obscured, it was the same as previously posted photos, Mr Hope said.

The post was shared almost 1,000 times by the time the victim saw it.

The court heard how people were urging Knox to name the girl, then delete the post five minutes later, so they could see it and spread it.

Mr Hope said: "The prosecution case is that he is encouraging others to share pictures and as a consequence, revealing her identity further."

The prosecution said there was a further, similar Facebook message also posted in March.

Police tried to find Knox and he was finally stopped at an airport on May 31.

In a victim impact statement, the schoolgirl said she felt "totally paranoid" whenever she went out, that the trial judge's promise of life-long anonymity had been ignored and that she had been threatened. She has had to have counselling.

Richard Rogers, defending Knox, said: "He apologises profusely, through me, to the young lady and wishes it had never happened."

The judge imposed an indefinite restraining order.

She said she would not make any order of compensation, which the victim had not asked for, as it could be considered "insulting" to the girl.

The judge said Knox could have been charged with contempt of court but the prosecution decided not to charge him with that offence as the comments were not made during the trial.